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Creating Inclusive Candidate Searches

Alicia Wilde

Targeting the gender wage gap has become one of the biggest trends in business, as socially conscious employers seek to form more egalitarian organizations.

Creating a more balanced and diverse workforce begins with hiring, and even if you have the best intentions, some accidentally problematic wording in your job listings could limit the reach of your candidate search. To start fishing from a more inclusive talent pool, follow these three steps:

1. Remove gendered keywords from job listings

A study by ZipRecruiter found that 70 percent of job listings across all industries contained stereotypical “masculine” keywords, which were especially prevalent in the fields of business, finance, healthcare and insurance.

Words like “leader,” “aggressive” and “ambitious” were gendered as being associated with masculine stereotypes, while terms like “support,” “understand” and “affectionate” were coded as feminine. While that language may seem ambiguous to some, the research concluded that the job listings which did not contain gendered words received a higher number of responses than their more problematic counterparts.

2. Avoid all pronouns and certain idioms

In addition to excising gendered keywords from their listings, hiring managers should also take care to remove any and all pronouns that assume the gender identity of the potential applicant.

Obviously, specifying “he” or “she” makes it clear that one gender is preferred over the other, but even the supposedly all-inclusive phrase “his or her” actually excludes those with non-binary gender identities. Play it safe by always using nouns like “applicant” or “candidate,” or when necessary, rephrasing the sentence to work around a pronoun.

3. Exercise caution when using common idioms

Even some common expressions have a historically male connotation, and are therefore not ideal for a job listing. For example, the expression “going above and beyond the call of duty” came about at a time when it was primarily men who served in uniform. It’s always best to avoid cliches. And it’s even better advice with the tired phrase in question created in the all-male office environments of yesteryear.


To attract a healthy, diverse range of applicants, remember to:

  1. Avoid gendered keywords in job listings.
  2. Also avoid any and all pronouns.
  3. Remember that even certain idioms can be problematic.

Inclusive language is the best way to hire a more diverse workforce. And the best way to recruit and retain new hires is by using integrated HR software. To find out how, schedule a free demo of JazzHR today.


Alicia Wilde


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